'There goes Grandpa'

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009
ROSS GIBLIN/Dominion Post
FLIGHT LEGACY: Thomas Button, 3, sits in the cockpit of the Wellington rescue helicopter. His late grandfather, Peter Button, pioneered the service and each time the helicopter goes up he is reminded of him.

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Each time the familiar red and yellow rescue helicopter flies overhead - and it happens most days - Ainsley Button cannot help but think of her dad.

She will point to the sky and tell her three-year-old son Thomas: "There goes Grandpa," a man the toddler will never meet.

"I point it out and say, 'That's Grandpa's helicopter, that's Grandpa.' He will learn," she says.

"Dad is probably up there for some reason, looking down, still keeping an eye on things."

Peter Button's legacy lives on 20 years after his death.

The man known by many as St Peter died on November 20, 1987, when his rescue helicopter hit a power cable between Johnsonville and Tawa and fell to earth.

The crash came just two days after he had received a medal for his lifesaving efforts. It also killed renowned Wellington photographer Ronald Woolf and developer Dion Savage.

The trio were helping police search for prisoner Peter Carr, who had escaped from Wi Tako Prison, now Rimutaka Prison.

It was perhaps the darkest day for the Life Flight Trust, which ran the rescue service.

Ainsley Button describes the Westpac rescue helicopter as "grandpa's helicopter" – he brought the rescue service to Wellington, fighting bureaucracy in order to save lives.

His funeral was one of the largest in the city's history.

Ainsley, who was just 13 when her father died, says: "Even now, everyone seems to know who he is."

Life Flight Trust general manager Kevin Allan says: "We've helped over 13,000 people, and he started that."

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- The Dominion Post

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